In the third and final installment of “The Equalizer” film franchise, Denzel Washington reprises the role of former Navy and DIA agent Robert McCall, who finds himself on the brink of death after a deadly encounter with mobsters leading a cyber heist operation in Sicily – and that’s just the start of an action-packed film! He soon finds himself defending the residents of an Italian coastal town under siege and terrorized by gangsters.
“The Equalizer 3,” which opens in Philippine cinemas on Wednesday, has earned its highest approval rating (75%) on Rotten Tomatoes so far — and for good reason: despite its penchant for surprising violence in the name of vigilante justice, the film offers a heartwarming and nostalgic goodbye to a character who uses his proven skills to mete out justice and defend people who cannot protect themselves.
Before “The Equalizer” (2014) and “The Equalizer 2” (2018), Robert McCall’s crime-fighting adventures began as a television series in 1985, starring six-time Emmy Award nominee Edward Woodward. title. Nearly three decades later, McCall’s story has been revived as a big-screen action franchise for Denzel.
During a recent roundtable interview, we asked director Antoine Fuqua, who helmed not only the actor’s films “The Equalizer,” but also 2016’s “The Seven Mercenaries” and 2001’s “Training Day” (for which Denzel won an Oscar) – which had prompted him to reimagine the TV series as a star vehicle for its 68-year-old lead actor.
“Denzel called me about it,” he shared. “He doesn’t normally do this, but he told me his views on the matter – and I understood where he was coming from. That’s how I got more excited about it. Once I started thinking about it, I would call him and discuss our approach to the film and this character. And I made him even more excited (laughs). But I think it was our collaborative relationship that really made this franchise work.
When asked what he thought about the film series finally ending, Antoine described filming the third part as “a great experience.” He explained: “I love cinema and I’m really going to miss seeing Robert McCall. And Denzel hasn’t appeared on the big screen in a blockbuster film in a long time. His last film was the Shakespeare film he directed in 2021 (the Joel Coen film “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, for which the actor was also nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards).
“Plus, it’s great to be able to put someone like Denzel Washington in a franchise because he’s not only a great actor, he’s also a huge movie star. Besides, it’s wonderful to seeing him having fun again as Robert McCall…and on location in Italy. We were very excited to do that.
As the three “Equalizer” films demonstrate, McCall, the aging protagonist, is ultraviolent. He’s the hypermasculine type. But as the film industry enters an era beyond the age of social media, how does Antoine think men should be represented in action films?
“You just have to stay true to the material, whatever it is,” the director emphasized. “As you make the film, stay true to who you are as a filmmaker, especially in how you understand the concept of what a man should be.
“And I’m still learning what that is because we’re all still evolving, with the pitfalls and the dilemmas and everything. But then again, what does “being a man” really mean these days? The future is open to interpretation.
Our questions/answers with Antoine:
This story has remained popular with viewers of different generations for almost 40 years now. To whom do you owe the enduring intergenerational appeal of “The Equalizer”?
More than money or fame, people want justice. And that’s what “The Equalizer” is about.
You said that all people want in this world is justice – everyone can easily relate to that. The film’s premise also provides a measure of catharsis for many viewers. But most of the franchise’s stories are very localized. Did the production ever attempt to tackle broader themes, from criminal injustice to, say, institutionalized oppression?
No way. Not from me. I mean, “The Equalizer” is more about helping individuals solve their problems, one person at a time, like with Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) in the first film. He was trying to help give the kid some self-confidence, so it’s not just about beating someone up. Or the old man in “Equalizer 2”. It’s just about helping people in any way we can – it’s that simple.
What is it about Robert McCall that always draws you to him, and what kind of challenge has that presented you?
McCall is a complex character. He has a lot of ghosts from his past and a part of darkness in him that I wanted to explore a little more in this film. I wanted to see him face a moral dilemma due to all the violence in his life.
Denzel and I talk a lot about how men like McCall end up “enjoying” violence more and more. Sometimes you get lost even though you’re trying to do it for all the right reasons. So there’s this moral question of whether he’s a good man or a bad man, you know? That’s what I wanted to explore here.
“Training Day”, “The Equalizer” and “Magnificent Seven” are the cornerstones of your collaboration with Denzel. Can you remember a moment from each film where he really surprised you as an actor?
All the time. He always manages to keep it fresh. I keep saying he’s like (jazz legend) Miles Davis…he does his own thing and you never know what he’ll do next. In “Training Day”, it was this iconic phrase from King Kong (“King Kong has nothing of me”) that surprised me.
In “The Equalizer,” this is how he arranges McCall’s napkin and spoon – he himself created this habit for his character. I still remember seeing it for the first time. Sometimes he does little things that are always surprising. He’s constantly exploring the character, exploring the moment he’s in. That’s part of our relationship: that he has the freedom to do it.
For “Magnificent Seven,” I had to convince him to do this film. I said, “Come on, man. I have to see you on horseback before the end of our career (laughs)! And seeing him handle this horse with ease was a surprise to me.
For those who don’t know what the film is about, how would you describe this story?
They go to see Robert McCall in a beautiful foreign country, protecting good people from the mafia. They’re going to see great action and fascinating characters.
Trouble seems to follow Robert McCall wherever he goes. For the third film, he goes to Italy and tries to live his life in peace. Don’t you ever give Robert a little peace?
That’s it… he found his peace here (laughs). He found a home, and that’s always the beginning, right? We will never know if McCall will find true peace. And if there’s going to be an “Equalizer 4”, I probably won’t be here for it.
What do you think of vigilante justice? And how does Robert McCall’s story resonate with you?
Well, I grew up in a rough neighborhood with a lot of bullies – and I don’t like bullies. I saw how people are oppressed and mistreated. I have a huge problem with this. I believe that if you can lend a helping hand to someone in need or stand up for someone, then you should do it. Some people need to be knocked out…it’s true. But I don’t believe in killing anyone.
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